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Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure Is the Best RPG Trilogy You've Never Played!

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Around the year 2000, I was browsing the video game section of a department store and discovered a PlayStation RPG with a beautiful angel on the cover. The back of the box described it as a fairy tale musical adventure, which sounded like it was right up my alley! Little did I know that would be the only time I would ever see a physical copy of Rhapsody in a store. When I asked about it at a Game Stop shortly after, the salesperson gave me a perplexed look and thought I was saying "Rap City." The game had a few quiet releases many years later for the DS and some other platforms but was widely considered rare in the West. It wasn't until very recently that I learned that not only were there  two sequels  but also that they were localized for English-speaking countries just last summer under the name Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles ! After nearly 20 years, the opportunity had finally arisen for me to play the complete series and learn about all three generations of magic

Review: Of Seafoam and Saltwater

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MerMay is still in full swing! For my second mermaid book this month, I decided to check out Of Seafoam & Saltwater  by Kay Leyda . This is a "lost princess" archetype story about a seemingly ordinary girl who discovers she's a mermaid and dives into a new world of undersea adventure and intrigue. Although this plot has been done many times before in books such as The Tail of Emily Windsnap , movies like Barbie in a Mermaid Tale , and independent works like Nerissa Sanderson, The Part-Time Mermaid , it's presented differently each time. This book is the author's premiere novel and the first in a series called The Piscea Chronicles. It's easy to see that she intended for it to be a series because there are a ton of characters, kingdoms, and concepts thrown at the reader to the point where the book can be difficult to follow at times. The first thing that drew me into this book was the beautiful artwork on the cover. I read many indie novels about fairy t

Review: My Fair Mermaid

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There are many fun mermaid books on sale this month for MerMay . One of the ones that stood out to me was My Fair Mermaid  by Sarah Beran . It seemed like such a novel idea to combine the story of "The Little Mermaid"  with Pygmalion / My Fair Lady . Although the book could have taken any number of directions to have an arrogant man convert a mermaid into human society, it turned out to be a pretty literal interpretation of the source material by creating a world where mermaids speak differently from humans due to living underwater and must improve their diction to be understood. I wasn't a huge fan of turning the original "Little Mermaid" character into a villain, but I did enjoy the story's unique focus on a related mermaid who followed her to land out of concern for her, which was similar to the "Sisters of the Sea" visual novel in Time Princess . Maribel is a mermaid with the unfortunate luck of being a cousin to Naia, the spoiled and selfish

Review: Time Princess - Twilight's Crown

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I was elated to learn that the next visual novel in Time Princess  would be a return to noblebright stories about royalty! The now massive smartphone app originally premiered with a visual novel about Queen Marie , so it was only a matter of time before it returned to its roots. Twilight's Crown is a mix of history and fantasy, with a disclaimer that any relevance it has to real-life events is purely coincidental. However, the game is packed with references to famous princesses and queens. Its main character, Eleanor, shares a similar backstory to Queen Elizabeth in regards to living in a world where  primogeniture  laws favor male heirs over female ones and a series of unlikely events that lead up to her becoming a sovereign queen after her brothers die young. Her royal gowns feature a red and green flower insignia that strongly resembles one used on the iconic necklace from Anastasia  to prove her regal lineage. There are also visual and plot-related nods to "Beauty and the

Review: Song of Vines (Singer Tales)

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Song of Vines  is the thrilling finale of the Singer Tales series by Deborah Grace White . With an inspired gender-bent retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk,"  a star-crossed romance, magical mishaps, and a big reunion of familiar faces, this book hits all the right notes to bring the series to an exciting crescendo. I enjoyed this book a lot more than its prequel, Song of Trails , which felt off compared to the other Singer Tales stories. The heroine in this book is particularly relatable to Millenials as a curious and hopeful young lady who has fallen on hard times financially.  Song of Vines  manages to bring together the events that took place in all the other books and wraps up the intricate world of elves, giants, and song magic that has been expertly woven into the DNA of the Singer Tales. Jacinta has fallen on hard times after her parents lost their esteemed jobs at the castle before her father's passing. Gone are the carefree days of her childhood when she would

Review: Song of Trails (Singer Tales)

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After reading Deborah Grace White 's Sacrificed Hearts book, Island of Secrets and Sacrifice , I decided to check out Haiden's origin story in the Singer Tales  after reading most of the other books in the series. Song of Trails  is a retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" set in the world of the Singer Tales. Though "Hansel and Gretel" has never been one of my favorites, this book featured Prince Otto as a love interest, who I had previously admired as Rosa's stepbrother in Song of Moonrise . With so many familiar characters, this book should have been the perfect storm to improve upon the original fairy tale. However, it follows a "road trip" format that drags on and on to the point where nothing interesting happens until close to the end. Gisela and Haiden are troubled children whose mother regularly tried to abandon them in the woods after an elf prophesized that Haiden would use his singer powers to take down a kingdom someday. Overly protecti

Review: Labyrinth of Lies and Sacrifice

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Well, folks, this is it. Labyrinth of Lies and Sacrifice  by C.F.E. Black is the final book in the Sacrificed Hearts series about maidens' hearts being sacrificed to monsters. What sets this book apart from the other five is that the monster here is not a creature of legend but a mythical place of madness and nightmares controlled by mind magic. The book reads as a cross between Labyrinth  and Alice in Wonderland  with a supplemental love story built in. Due to the nature of the labyrinth, which is powered by mental and emotional trauma, this book is one of the darker ones in the series. It serves as a strong conclusion that allows readers to explore alternate possibilities of what it means to be sacrificed aside from being thrown into a pit with a monster. Vera hoped to live a quiet life away from the magic that corrupted her bloodline, especially if she had inherited her grandmother's mind magic, which was gravely feared throughout the kingdom. Hoping she would harness her

Review: Assassin of Fire and Sacrifice

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Assassin of Fire and Sacrifice  by Mary Mecham  is the second to last book in the Sacrificed Hearts series, which I have been binging for the past two weeks . This book is a little different from the others. It is the only one in which the main character voluntarily sacrifices her heart by responding to a marriage request from her worst enemy with the intent to kill him and liberate the people she was brought up with. As a result, the romance in this book is fraught with anger and mistrust, making it less of a "cozy" love story than the others. The "monster" in this book is the legendary phoenix, but he spends most of his time as a man, and a rather meek one at that. Though such a hard-hitting premise appealed less to my personal taste than some of the others in this series, I had very few qualms with the writing itself, which was full of twists and drama. Azora is an orphaned soldier with an immunity to fire due to her ancestry. Similar to Avatar: The Last Airb

Review: Island of Secrets and Sacrifice

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Of all the Sacrificed Hearts books I've reviewed so far, Island of Secrets and Sacrifice by Deborah Grace White was the one I was looking forward to reading the most. She is the author of my favorite mermaid series, The Vazula Chronicles , and this book had a similar premise only without the mermaids. It takes place in the same world as the Singer Tales , one of my favorite fairy tale anthologies, and has a relatable protagonist and charming love story with undertones of "Beauty and the Beast." Suffice to say, this book had a lot of thought put into its setting, plot, and characters, and it shines through its strong worldbuilding, relatable themes, and compelling yet easy to follow narrative. Ember is a stubborn redhead who was raised in a dystopian society cut off from the rest of the world. She has a strong desire to be free from the confines of her island and learn the secrets of the outside world as well as the truth behind the maidens who are sacrificed from her

Review: Mask of Deception and Sacrifice

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I am more than halfway through the Sacrificed Hearts multi-author series of books about maidens falling in love after being sacrificed to "monsters." The third book in the series is Mask of Deception and Sacrifice by Callie Thomas . This book is a perfect blend between The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . It follows the premise of the series more closely than Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice but not quite as literally as Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice . The story boasts a compelling romance full of drama and passion between two characters who were forced to hide their faces from the world. Its gorgeous artwork is a tribute to the drama and mystery within. This is the darkest story from this series so far, but the author provides a considerate trigger warning at the beginning of the book to prepare readers for the more disturbing parts of it. Fiona is a lost princess from a kingdom that was conquered by prejudice against those with the ability to use illu

Review: Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice

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Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice  by Everly Haywood  is the second book from the Sacrificed Hearts series, which contains six books by different authors about maidens falling in love after being sacrificed to monsters. This book follows a different formula from  others I've read so far  in that the monster sacrifice happens very late in the book and is not the same character as the love interest featured on the beautiful cover art. In fact, this book has three love interests, which is even more than a typical love triangle and makes it unnecessarily convoluted. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters because the princess was introduced to so many suitors in such a short period. This book also contains a healthy helping of pirate lore, which has never been my cup of tea, as well as krakens , elves , and siren songs all packed into a fairly short novel. Reva is a fiercely independent princess of a struggling kingdom. She is left with no choice but to make a reluctant marri

Review: Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice

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As a member of the street team for the Sacrificed Hearts series , I have been eager to read these books about unexpected romance from many of my favorite authors. The series plays on the trope of sacrificial maidens  who learn that their "captors" are not what they appear to be and grow to love them. In other words, they can be interpreted as loose retellings of "Beauty and the Beast,"  one of the most beloved love stories. The first book in the series, Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice  by Tara Grayce , is a quintessential starting point for this series. I recently reviewed Netflix's Damsel , which had a similar premise but was marred by modern agendas and stereotypes of what it means to be a princess today . In many ways, this story is the opposite of Damsel , taking a damsel who believes her life will be threatened by a fearsome dragon before learning she doesn't need physical strength to defeat it and that what is inside her heart is already enough. I wa

Review: Time Princess - The Underground City

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Where Infinite Shimmer , the last visual novel in Time Princess , encompasses everything romantic and girly in a seemingly misplaced cyberpunk setting, The Underground City: Stirring Shadows does quite the opposite. Although the dystopian world of The Underground City is so similar to Infinite Shimmer that it could have easily been a spinoff about a different character living a different life, Sera's circumstances are not nearly as appealing as Aurora's. This visual novel takes everything a player would expect from the genre instead of twisting it into a Barbie-like setting . While this is great for fans of dark gritty dystopian worlds, it feels out of place for such a bright girly game as Time Princess that features a fairy who gives the protagonist the power to become anyone. While not appealing to my personal tastes, this novel demonstrates the game's versatility to players who enjoy all types of stories. Underground City players are transformed into Sera, a tragic figur

Happy International Mermaid Day!

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Today is International Mermaid Day , and it comes with big news for mermaid fans. I recently shared a leaked promo video for Disney Junior's Ariel that was taken down shortly after. Today, in honor of International Mermaid Day, an official teaser was launched containing only footage from the show without any of the interviews from its creators. There was also an update from Rainbow SpA 's upcoming animated series, Mermaid Magic , which is scheduled to release around the same time period as Ariel. Finally, my friend Kae-Leah Williamson's Wattpad book, The Siren Queen , was recently completed along with a lovely romantic prequel set in a fictional mer-universe called The Servant Girl and the Sea Prince . Though it does not have a specific release date yet, the first official teaser for Disney Junior's Ariel took the internet by storm today. It is reported to premiere sometime this summer on Disney Junior and Disney+. The teaser featured new footage of characters that